Hollywood, often seen as the pinnacle of creativity and diversity, has long been marred by a contentious practice known as whitewashing. In an industry that prides itself on telling captivating stories, the decision to cast white actors in roles originally intended for characters of different racial or ethnic backgrounds has sparked justified criticism and outcry. This article delves into some prominent examples of whitewashing in Hollywood, shedding light on a troubling pattern that continues to persist.
- “Ghost in the Shell” (2017):
Based on the popular Japanese manga and anime series, “Ghost in the Shell” faced significant controversy when Scarlett Johansson, a white actress, was cast as the lead character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, who is of Japanese descent. The decision to cast a non-Asian actress in a role central to Japanese culture led to accusations of cultural appropriation and the erasure of Asian representation in mainstream cinema.
- “The Last Airbender” (2010):
M. Night Shyamalan’s adaptation of the beloved animated series “Avatar: The Last Airbender” drew widespread criticism for its casting choices. In a world inspired by Asian and Inuit cultures, white actors were predominantly cast in leading roles, directly contradicting the diverse and culturally rich source material. The whitewashing in this film reinforced the harmful notion that Asian actors are not bankable or deserving of major roles in Hollywood.
- “Doctor Strange” (2016):
Marvel’s “Doctor Strange” courted controversy when Tilda Swinton, a white actress, was cast as The Ancient One, a character originally portrayed as an elderly Tibetan man in the comics. The studio’s justification of the casting choice, citing concerns about reinforcing stereotypes, fell flat in the face of valid criticism. By erasing a character of Tibetan origin and replacing them with a white actor, the film perpetuated the exclusion of Asian actors from significant roles.
- “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (2010):
In this adaptation of the popular video game franchise, Jake Gyllenhaal, a white actor, was cast as the Persian prince, Dastan. The decision to cast a non-Middle Eastern actor as the lead in a story deeply rooted in Persian mythology and culture further highlighted Hollywood’s propensity to prioritize marketability over authenticity. It also perpetuated the underrepresentation of Middle Eastern actors in mainstream cinema.
- “Aloha” (2015):
Cameron Crowe’s romantic comedy-drama, set in Hawaii, stirred controversy when Emma Stone, a white actress, was cast as Allison Ng, a character who is part Hawaiian and part Chinese. The film’s misguided attempt to present Stone as a character of mixed heritage was met with backlash, as it failed to cast a mixed-race or Asian actress who could have authentically represented the character’s cultural background.
Whitewashing in Hollywood remains an unfortunate stain on the film industry, perpetuating a lack of diversity, erasing cultural identities, and marginalizing actors of different ethnic backgrounds. While these examples highlight some of the most glaring instances, they are indicative of a much broader issue. Hollywood must strive for more authentic and inclusive storytelling, acknowledging the importance of representation and providing equal opportunities for actors of all backgrounds. Only then can we hope to dismantle the deeply rooted practice of whitewashing and embrace a truly diverse and inclusive entertainment landscape.